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Cowboys Counting Heavily on Coaching Changes for 2020 Improvement

The Dallas Cowboys fired Jason Garrett and most of the coaching staff this offseason after a disappointing 8-8 finish in 2019 and missing the playoffs. Mike McCarthy, Mike Nolan, and other new arrivals are expected to affect positive change, and the roster movement this year further emphasizes the need for improved coaching to improve results.

The Cowboys have certainly brought in some big-name players and exciting new rookies. The defense has been bolstered with former 1st-Round picks like Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. There’s also the intriguing duo of pass rushers in Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory.

We’re all still glowing about the seemingly awesome haul of talent Dallas added in the 2020 NFL Draft; CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, and others.

But we also said goodbye to some quality players this offseason; Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Randall Cobb, Robert Quinn, and Maliek Collins headlining the departures.

When you look at the outgoing players versus the incoming talent, how much stronger overall did the Cowboys really get?

  • Can we really expect any of our new cornerbacks to be as good as Byron Jones? Maybe one day, but as rookies?
  • Will either Gregory or Smith be able to come off their missed time and be as effective as Robert Quinn?
  • Ceedee Lamb should be a greater player than Randall Cobb before long, but will the Cowboys miss the veteran presence in 2020?
  • The prospect of Blake Jarwin finally getting to be “the man” at tight end is exciting, but he still has to prove it.
  • Will any of the contenders at center really be as good as Travis Frederick?

These questions abound through the Cowboys’ roster. Sure there are a few clear upgrades; Andy Dalton at backup QB, McCoy and Poe on the defensive line, Clinton-Dix over Jeff Heath at safety. But there is still a whole lot of “wait and see” in Dallas’ moves this year and what sort of team they will produce.

That turnover makes coaching all the more imperative. Mike McCarthy’s staff, particularly on defense, has to teach a new system while also helping the new players gel with the incumbents.

I do think the Cowboys are more talented now than they were last year. But it may take time for that talent to all come together, or for our exciting rookie class to be able to contribute at full potential.

That means McCarthy and Mike Nolan have to better than the guys they’re replacing. Holdover Kellen Moore needs to keep growing as a coordinator in his second season. Otherwise, Dallas may wind up not much better than an 8-8 team again.

Mike McCarthy
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy

Jason Garrett has been accused of “wasting” the best year of players like Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant; that the Cowboys were a Super Bowl team with an undermining coach.

I would argue that Garrett got more out of the Cowboys in some years than other coaches would have. Keeping the team competitive during the salary cap issues and roster turnover from 2010-2013 was not easy.

But there’s no denying that Jason seemed outclassed in some big games and especially in the playoffs. For whatever reasons, the other team always seemed to have an edge.

Mike McCarthy’s Packers bounced the Cowboys from the playoffs twice in the last six seasons. He was 5-1 overall against Dallas since Garrett became head coach.

Sure, McCarthy had Aaron Rodgers and we didn’t. But if you thought Tony Romo was so great and believe in Dak Prescott now then you can’t really have it both ways.

Garrett got the Cowboys close a few times. McCarthy stopped them on two of them. It’s why he’s the new head coach in Dallas.

The Cowboys are counting on that move, above anything else they did this offseason, to finally get them over the hump. And at least for this year, McCarthy may not have much more talent to work with than Garrett had.

Dallas has laid a great foundation for 2020 and especially the next few seasons to come. But if they’re going to contend for a Super Bowl right now, it’s going to be on McCarthy and his staff to get more out of this roster than the last coaching regime did.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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  1. the arrow is def pointing upward for this team even with this crisis going on, if the draft didnt already show the football world that, the games will for sure… the red headed clapper is gone with his way too predicatble offense, and the marinilli never get any takeaways defense is wiped clean also,,,just can’t wait to see big mac mike and staff do their thiang!!!!!!

  2. Figure Garrett cost us a few playoff runs over the yrs with his poor decision making and maddening predictability. Always got the sense he was being outcoached especially in big games. Shouldn’t be issue with suoer bowl winner McCarthy.

    • We only have one way to go and that is up. Garrett was boring and predictable, and for the most part baby’d the players instead of sticking a boot in their butts. I love what we have done so far and Jerry seems to be staying out of the way. Until Dak can hit the open receiver more consistently I wouldn’t pay him top dollar.

  3. If Garrett was so smart, why did he stick around so long? Was it because the team always played hard for him and never quit? I never saw that under him until last season. They always had frontline talent it was always the lack of depth at key positions that killed them. The special teams were absolutely horrendous the last few and were basically ignored. Is that a money saving issue from the Jones? Or is neglect on Garrett’s end?

  4. I guess the best way to express my current state of being with this team is “Guarded optimism” not in an NFC Championship appearance but in a division win and a playoff win. Always competitive, better defense and much stronger special teams coupled with more aggressive and less predictable play calling.

  5. Good article! If you go position by position and grade just the projected starters for this year against last year’s starters, this team is less than it was when the season ended last year. Depth is probably better though.

    QB – (push)
    RB – (push)
    TE – (push)
    WR – (slight upgrade)
    OL – (push)
    Essentually the offense is unchanged. Witten/Cobb out … Jarwin/Lamb in. This year’s team has a better ceiling but as it stand right now, its not significantly changed unless Jarwin or Lamb just blows up. We all hope they do, but they haven’t earned that better grade yet.

    DT – (upgraded)
    DE – (downgraded)
    LB – (push)
    CB – (downgraded)
    S – (upgraded)
    The changes on defensive are more volitile and will likely have more impact on this season’s success. Again, know matter what you think/thought of Jones leaving and getting Diggs, etc … you can’t give them grades better than Byron earned … just yet.

    I agree that coaching will be the single biggest influence on this team.

  6. For years the Cowboys players weren’t held accountable and I’m not positive on whom to blame for that. Yeah Garrett was the coach but JJ allows the players to bypass the coach and run to him if they’re unsatisfied with things. If McCarthy can reign these players in and make them accountable then the future will be bright.

  7. Everything about this franchise improved the minute Jerry decided to move on from Garrett. Garrett has “his guys” guys that were decent NFL players but shouldn’t have been starting, and surely not as long as some of them did. McCarthy has already come in and brought in proven commodities, not backup guys that got thrust into starting roles. Not to mention, the Dallas Cowboys in the Jason Garrett era was one of the most predictable teams I’ve ever seen in any sport. Teams literally knew everything that was going to be done by the cowboys and just had to execute to beat it (see Sam Darnold). McCarthy will bring freshness to the team and the offense and defense will actually have not only the advantage of physical talent, but also good coaching.

    • I so hope you’re right, Nick. However, I remember feeling very similarly when Garrett took over from Wade Phillips. We always think the grass is going to be greener, but right now it’s just hope.

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